Its lights out in state prisons to save cash by ert554898


									       It's lights out in state prisons
                 to save cash
                 Charlie Cain / Detroit News
                       Lansing Bureau
                       March 31, 2007
                       Hard time
• Hard time is getting a little harder inside Michigan
  prisons. The Department of Corrections, looking to
  reduce its $14.4 million annual electric bill, is pulling the
  plug -- literally -- on some of life's luxuries for inmates
  and workers at 42 state prisons and eight prison camps.
• While corrections officials can't estimate how much they
  hope to save by the new conservation efforts, they say
  every penny is important in the effort to balance the
  state's out-of-whack budget.
• Their plan:
   – Extinguish lights on Christmas trees and other holiday displays
     in prison lobbies and offices.
   – Remove refrigerated vending machines from lobbies, prisoner
     housing units and visitation rooms.
   – Eliminate refrigerated water coolers.
                 Reduce energy!
• "We need to take the reduction of energy very serious,"
  Deputy Director Dennis Straub wrote this week to the
  state's prison wardens. "Please implement these
  measures immediately."
• The department says wardens will be given a brief time
  to determine whether they will have any problems
  implementing the changes. "I don't have an exact date,
  but it will happen soon," said Russ Marlan, spokesman
  for the Corrections Department.
• A prisoner advocacy group is criticizing the moves,
  saying they amount to added punishment.
   – "It seems punitive, and these are just minimal cost saving
     measures that actually cause more harm for prisoners who have
     already lost a lot of privileges that we in the free world have,"
     said Natalie Holbrook, associate at the Ann Arbor-based
     American Friends Service Committee's Michigan Criminal
     Justice Program.                                                  3
                             Other Issues
• Meanwhile, a House committee Wednesday unanimously approved and
  sent to the full House legislation that would end the sales tax exemption
  inmates now receive when purchasing items from prison stores. If
  adopted, it would generate $700,000 annually for the state. The
  combined actions may appear penny-ante to some. But there are plenty
  of reasons corrections officials are trying to squeeze out savings.
• Consider:
    – Michigan's prison system is housing an all-time high 51,500 inmates -- 173 percent
      more than two decades ago. The department says the state will likely run out of prison
      beds by September, a full year before expected.
    – It costs $1.9 billion to run the state's prison system, eating up one of every five dollars
      in the state's main checkbook. Taxpayers spend $5 million a day on prisons.
    – For those reasons, Gov. Jennifer Granholm is proceeding with plans to open the cell
      doors this summer and fall to about 5,500 nonviolent, low-risk inmates.
    – It's designed to save the state $92 million. But her recommended corrections budget
      for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 still calls for a 4 percent spending increase.
• That means the state will continue to pay more to run its prisons than it
  does to support its 15 public universities.

            The Economics
                     $   MB
• We’ve seen the                 Are we
  costs.                         at N*?

• What are the
  benefits?                                  MC
  – Protection
  – Punishment
  – Vengeance
  – Rehabilitation
  – Deterrence

                              Number of Prisoners
            The Economics
                    $    MB
• If so, why?
                                    …or are
• If we are at N** and           we somewhere
  we cut the number of
  prisoners, is it
  necessarily costless
  to society?
                          Reduced       Costs

                                      N*       N**

                                     Number of Prisoners

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